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Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Tennis Picks 2016 (February 2nd)

After Alexander Zverev won his match against Luca Vanni in the most fortunate of ways, I was a little worried Monday was going to be 'one of those days' for the tennis picks. The youngster had no right to win the match, let alone covering the number, especially after saving match point thanks to a very fortunate net cord when Vanni was dictating the point.

It wasn't a great non-cover, but I had a bit of luck in Quito with Inigo Cervantes breaking Pere Riba twice in the final set of their match to ensure he covered the number so I guess that bit of luck evened out.

I certainly think it did considering Cervantes saved eight break points in the second set when he had already lost a first set tie-breaker before he served much better in the third set which he eventually won 63.

With the first two matches going to the very end before deciding whether they were winners or losers, the Alejandro Falla comfortable win at least meant there was nothing to worry about in the third pick of the day. That also means a winning start to the week, which gives me something to build upon, and I will have four picks from across the three tournaments being played this week on Tuesday.

Gilles Muller - 3.5 games v Malek Jaziri: The courts in Sofia look in fantastic shape for the new tournament on the ATP calendar, but they will get a full test run on Tuesday with a number of First Round matches being played. Most of them are not of interest to me with the matches looking tough to call, but I do like Gilles Muller having a bit too much for Malek Jaziri.

2016 has opened in much more positive fashion for Muller than it has for Jaziri and I do think the indoor hard courts are very much to Muller's liking. He was only 6-5 on the indoor hard courts last season, but that is better than Jaziri's 0-3 record even if one of those losses came through a retirement in Montpellier.

Usually I would not be interested on the faster surfaces to back someone like Muller to cover this kind of number because he is not the best returner. However this is an opponent that will give Muller chances on the return to have a swing and will also likely be affected by the scoreboard pressure that Muller can create with his own serve.

The Muller serve is the more reliable of the two players and his placement can set him up for the easier points, while it does hold up under pressure too. I think that will be key to perhaps saving some break points and keeping up the mental pressure on Jaziri to stay with him.

With two defeats to open 2016, Jaziri might be lacking the confidence needed in this one and I can see Muller earning a break in each serve to eventually see this one out 64, 64.

Jan-Lennard Struff + 2.5 games v Nicolas Mahut: The layers have made Nicolas Mahut a pretty strong favourite to win his First Round match against Jan-Lennard Struff, but I am not convinced it will be a straight forward one for him. He is playing at home, but Mahut doesn't have the best previous record in Montpellier, while he was beating by Struff twice in 2015 including on the indoor hard courts of Marseille.

That match in Marseille was a very tight one despite the easy first set as the last two sets were decided in tie-breakers. However, Struff didn't face a break point in that match against Mahut and he does have the kind of serve that will make tough for his opponent, especially as Mahut's return game is not the best.

Then again, Struff won't have a lot of joy facing the Mahut serve either so this looks a very tight match that could easily be decided in a couple of tie-breakers. The German does have the edge from a mental perspective having won their two matches in 2015.

However it is a concern that 2016 has started as poorly as it has for Struff with his confidence likely to have been hit by a number of losses. Unlike Struff, Mahut got to a Quarter Final already this season, but I can't help this is going to be decided by very little which makes the games being given to the underdog very appealing.

Dusan Lajovic + 3.5 games v Albert Ramos-Vinolas: The courts in Quito have been playing faster than you may think for clay courts and I think the Number 7 Seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas could have a tough day in the office against Dusan Lajovic.

Both players have had difficult starts to the 2016 season, but it has to be noted that both are also much more comfortable on the clay courts. Out of the two players it is Lajovic who has won the majority of his main Tour matches on the clay courts whereas Ramos-Vinolas has shown he is capable of putting some strong results together on the hard courts.

That lefty serve can be a problem for players to deal with when Ramos-Vinolas is on his game with that shot, but he can be a little erratic at times and can become very sloppy with his play. It will be tough for Lajovic at times because of the limited matches he has played against left-handers on the Tour and it can take a little time to get used to the different spins a player is seeing on the court.

Lajovic had a decent run here in Quito last year and his is capable of pushing this into a third set and perhaps even win this match outright. I am just looking for him to keep this competitive as long as Lajovic serves well to keep Albert Ramos-Vinolas at bay and keep the pressure on in this one.

Joao Souza v Facunda Arguello: The Brazilian Joao Souza came through the Qualifiers to reach the main draw in Quito, but he has struggled to replicate the early season form he showed in 2015. Two decent runs during the South American Golden Swing were followed by an impressive Davis Cup win over Argentina but he has struggled for consistency since then and returned to the Challenger level.

He did beat Facunda Arguello very easily during his strong opening to the season and the layers are finding it hard to split them in this First Round match. Arguello has hardly been in that inspiring form himself this season and has lost the mental edge of having never lost a set in four previous matches against Souza before being dismissed as easily as he was in their last match.

Even with that in mind, there has been more consistency in the Arguello performances and I think he is the superior player of the two taking to the court. If Souza serves a very high percentage of first serves he will be dangerous and he is used to the conditions in Quito having won a couple of Qualifiers to get into the main draw.

I think that can make the difference in this match and help Souza win his second match in a row against Arguello. It will be a close match and I can see this going into a third set, but the superior serve can make a big difference for Souza on a fast playing clay court and I will back him to reach the Second Round.

MY PICKS: Gilles Muller - 3.5 Games @ 1.85 William Hill (2 Units)
Jan-Lennard Struff + 2.5 Games @ 1.83 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Dusan Lajovic + 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Joao Souza @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 2-1, + 1.26 Units (6 Units Staked, + 21% Yield)

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